Looking for an outdoor adventure during your getaway to Central Florida? Florida State Parks proudly call themselves “…the Real Florida,” and Blue Spring State Park is the crown jewel of Central Florida. Lucky for you, it’s only a 30-minute drive from Thurston House Bed & Breakfast in Maitland.

A wide variety of outdoor recreation is readily available here in Central Florida—birding, hiking, lakes, swimming, paddling and more. According to Visit Central Florida, the region touts over 550 bodies of water, but the refreshing 72-degree waters of Blue Spring, along the St. Johns River, delights visitors year round. Blue Spring is considered a “first-magnitude” spring, discharging over 70 million gallons of water daily into the St. Johns River.

For hundreds of years, the Timacuan Indians made the spring area their home. The spring run, river, and surrounding swamps and uplands, provided food, clothing, shelter and materials for tools and weapons. First journaled in the 1700s, it later became a hub of community life when Louis Thursby built a house nearby in 1872. “Blue Spring Landing,” was a busy port for steamboats transporting tourists and goods to Jacksonville and beyond, before the railroad came through.  A century later, a Jacques Cousteau documentary, called “The Forgotten Mermaids,” was filmed there showing Blue Spring as a winter refuge for hundreds of manatee each year. Eventually, the State purchased the land in order to preserve this treasure.

Blue Spring State Park is spread over 2,643 acres within which are 21 natural communities, including 2 lagoons, a north-flowing river, and a first-magnitude spring. This diversity of habitats allows for a vast diversity of flora and fauna. In addition to more than 300 West Indian manatee each winter, Blue Spring is the habitat for at least 15 threatened or endangered plants and animals. On a guided hike or boat tour, keep an eye out for gopher tortoise, Florida scrub jay, herons, sunfish, alligator, osprey and a slew of other wildlife.


looking down on lagoon with paddlers and kayakersBlue Spring State Park offers as much diversity of fun as it does nature. A self-guided boardwalk leads visitors through a lush hammock to Blue Spring. An observation platform provides a view of the endangered manatees which leave the colder waters of the St. Johns River for the safety and comfort of the 72-degree spring—primarily from November through March. Visitors can also swim, tube, snorkel, dive, and kayak in the perfectly refreshing water, even in summertime. Three pavilions offer areas to picnic, barbeque or sunbathe, and there are numerous trails for biking, walking and hiking. There are also boat ramps and camp sites.

For the ultimate Blue Spring experience, why not scout for that illusive Florida scrub jay while a professional nature guide pilots the boat down the St. Johns River narrating the history and beauty of your surroundings? Thurston House offers a river cruise package with food, drinks and all the supplies you’ll need for a carefree adventure in nature. Grab your binoculars or camera and board a covered pontoon for a two-hour narrated cruise. St. Johns River Cruises has become the latest Florida eco-tour provider to successfully complete the Florida Society for Ethical Ecotourism’s rigorous certification program and was awarded the prestigious Platinum Level Certification for meeting over 90% of the bonus criteria on the society’s checklist. You’ll discover the secrets of Blue Spring aided by the trained eyes of your guide. You’re in good hands!

For a real “up-close-and-personal” adventure, choose a 2-hour guided kayak tour with an experienced river guide. These small group tours of up to 10 people allow for more specialized attention to guests and a closer look at breathtaking wildlife.

blue and white bird, Florida scrub jayFISHING, BIRDING, DIVING, AND HIKING AT BLUE SPRING

Looking to get some fishing in? Great idea! Bring your fishing supplies and fish from the dock on the St. Johns River. Popular catches include flounder, snook, redfish, catfish, bass, bluegill, and crappie. Be sure to pick up a Florida fishing license before heading to the park.

For bird enthusiasts, Blue Spring State Park is on the Great Florida Birding Trail. A great spot to see native and migrating birds! The protected Florida scrub jay, the only bird species that exclusively lives in Florida, nests among the low growing oak scrub and flatwoods inside the park. Visitors can often hear their singing while hiking the Pine Island Trail.

Diving is allowed in Blue Spring Park, except from November through March when manatees are present. Certified divers can now enjoy Blue Spring and all of its underwater habitats. Divers must show proof of certification and have a dive partner. Only those certified in cave diving will be allowed into those underwater structures. Florida Dive Company offers a guided underwater discovery tour. For more information, call 386-663-8030.

You’d rather walk or hike? There are a couple of noteworthy trails at Blue Spring State Park just for you. Pine Island Trail is a moderate 5-mile trail that travels through the sand pine scrub, flatwoods, freshwater marsh and out to St. Johns River. Blue Spring Boardwalk Trail is an easy 1-mile trail along the wooden boardwalk that runs parallel to Blue Spring Run. Viewing decks are located along the path to showcase the manatees, sea turtles and other sea life. Picnic tables and a concession are located in the middle.


pontoon boat on lake at Blue SpringBlue Spring State Park is located about 30 minutes north of Thurston House, at 2100 W. French Ave, Orange City, Florida. Getting to the park from our Orlando-area bed and breakfast is easy. Head north on I-4, then take Hwy 17-92 to Orange City. The Park entrance is a few miles west on French Avenue. The park is open daily and river cruises depart twice a day at 10 am and 1 pm. Learn more about Blue Spring State Park online at

Thurston House, our historic bed and breakfast near Orlando, is here to help you make the most of your Central Florida adventures! Add our Nature Lover’s River Cruise Package when booking your accommodations, for a stress-free nature adventure. We’ve got you covered with a picnic lunch, drinks, and sunscreen—even binoculars for getting a better look at that blue heron in the marsh!

Even if you’re one who prefers to go it alone, let us know if we can assist with gear rental, directions, or suggestions for your day’s itinerary. Thurston House is here to help you have a fabulous Central Florida vacation!

Maitland Baby Owl Shower

Baby Owl Shower

Maitland Baby Owl Shower Spring Event: Saturday. May 10 10am – 2pm

Each Spring the Maitland Birds of Prey Center holds its annual Maitland Baby Owl Shower to raise funds to offset the increased costs during baby season. Join them to help celebrate Mother’s Day and spring.  Non-releasable baby raptors will be available to view.  Other organizations will be joining them on that day for educational activities and programs.  Admission is “free” that day with an item suitable  that would be used in caring for these young raptors. The list is long, and includes items such as laumdry detergent, duct tape, king size flat sheets, paper towels, toilet paperwild bird seed, trash bags, etc…. Go to website for a complete list.

Maitland Baby Owl Shower – Help the center help them…

Spring is coming and with it brings baby bird season.  During “baby season,” as the Center calls it, the clinic receives approximately 20% of their annual patient load.  Most of these young birds have been temporarily displaced from their nests. The Center’s ultimate goal is to get all these babies back into the wild where they belong, and your help is needed!  Many of these babies will be reunited with their families or placed in foster nests. Others that are orphaned or that cannot be returned with their families are being raised and prepared for life in the wild.  The Birds of Prey Center staff spends many hours educating the public on what to do if they find a baby bird and if the bird is in need of help.  The best procedure is to get the baby back up into the nest with its parents if at all possible.


Baby Bird Season!

Baby Bird Season Just Around the Corner

I am sharing a portion of this wonderful resource from our fabulous Audubon Birds of Prey Center. It is just 1/2 mile from us here at Thurston House. Many guests have loved visiting and learning about these magnificient birds.



Welcome to Florida Raptor News! The Raptor News eNewsletter is an easy way is to stay up to date on activities, programs and events with the incredible Audubon Center for Birds of Prey in Maitland. We invite you to share with other friends, birders and conservationists the exciting events and opportunities going on at one of Florida’s best-kept secrets. Please enjoy the following notes about the recent happenings at our wonderful Center. Also, you can always stay up to date on upcoming programs and activities by visiting our Facebook Page. Join the community! Thanks and see you at the Center!


Preparing for Baby Bird Season

As the Bird care team prepares for upcoming baby season, so do some of our resident raptors.  Several of our permanent residents assist as foster parents during this critical time. Athena, an Eastern Screech-Owl was brought to Audubon from Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary in February 2013 when they could no longer care for her.  She was admitted to Suncoast with a fractured right wing and a dislocated left wing.

They had used her as a foster parent for orphaned Eastern Screech owlets, and we have continued to employ her skills as a parent.  This year we have designed a whole new cage for Athena to raise her little orphans in a safe environment where they will have less human contact and more uninterrupted time with their new “Mom”.  We are all excited to see how Athena likes her new parenting mew.

As spring arrives, be cautious about tree trimming.  Many of Central Florida’s cavity nesters may be using your trees as a safe home.  Consider trimming during alternate months not during nesting season; be aware of cavity nesting birds such as Eastern Screech owls.

Birds Breakfast Thurston House B&B

Birds breakfast Thurston House B&B, both things guests love about us. The City of Maitland is honored to fall directly within the Great Florida Birding Trail – East. Signs around the city show visitors the way to the fabulous Audubon Birds of Prey Center. This facility happens to be only 2 streets from our Central Florida Bed & Breakfast Thurston House. Wander around and view the many varieties of birds, from owls and kestrels to the elegant bald eagles, osprey and hawks. This amazing place is the permenant home to several birds that cannot be released back into the wild. “Trouble” is one of these birds, a bald eagle that was too injured to be rehabilitated enough to be on its’ own.

owl couple at Thurston House

Birds Breakfast Thurston House B&B

After your visit to the center, relax on our wraparound porch and enjoy what we like to refer to as our “mini-Audubon Center”. Ducks, anhinga’s, and osprey enjoy Lake Eulalia’s offerings. Owls hoot from the woods and occasionally will swoop down to show off for guests. Egrets and herons find their way along our shores too, elegant with their long necks and legs. Smaller birds such as hummingbirds, titmouse, thrashers, blackbirds and cardinals are constant visitors, and love to fly among the bushes and trees, serenading as they go. Enjoy our new website page, dedicated just for our Feathered Friends, and look for new photos to be added regularily.